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Childhood Obesity: the Causes, Health Problems, and Prevention

By kristinwaltmire Mar 02, 2011 3087 Words
Childhood Obesity: The Causes, Health Problems, and Prevention Kristina Waltmire
ENG122: English Composition II
Instructor: Marsha Beckwith-Howard
February 21, 2011

The topic that I have chosen for my paper is addressing the issue of childhood obesity. According to Merriam-Webster (2010) obesity is a condition where there is excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body. I think that childhood obesity is an epidemic that the United States of America is facing as a major issue for children health. Childhood obesity is one of the fastest growing health concerns in the United States. The definition of an epidemic according to Encyclopedia Britannica (2011) is the occurrence of disease that is temporarily of high prevalence. The childhood obesity rate has more than tripled in the United States over the last 30 years( Center for Disease Control, 2010) I will prove that there are ways to prevent the causes of childhood obesity.

Research will be focusing on the causes, the health concerns, and the ways to prevent childhood obesity. The resources that will be using for the research are: internet research, case and research reports, and interviews. So far research findings are showing that there are many causes and effects of childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is difficult health problem because it has biological, behavioral, social, economic, environmental, and cultural causes (Koplan, Liverman, Kraak, 2005, pg 340). Each one of the causes stated above can have many different influences for a child in this country.

An economic example is when the recession caused a lot of people to lose their jobs. The recession caused a lot of people to lose their income, which caused a lot of families to not be able to afford the necessities of life. People had to choose between making their house payment or buying food. The number of people also has something to do with how a family eats. The number of people that are in the family determines the amount and the cost of food needed. A family income also has an important role in a family. If the family size is larger and the income level is low then the family may have problems buying healthier food.

A social example would be their peers influencing what they eat when they are away from their house. Children could be more likely to eat what their friends eat when they are not home as well. The community has a role in this as well. The reason the community has a role in this is due to the restaurants that are in the area and the food those places offer. If your community only offers fast food then the child is more likely to eat that food, which is high in fat. The education level and number of parents may also affect childhood obesity. Research shows that the higher level of education and if both parents are in the home then it is less likely that a child will be obese ((Koplan, Liverman, Kraak, 2005, pg 216).

A cultural example would be how we advertise products in the United States. Companies are advertising towards children. For example at a fast food restaurant the child meal comes with a toy. With children watching more and more TV these days the retailers are making commercials for the children that are watching them. The child's ethnicity is an important factor as well. The traditions that the parents grow up with will be taught to the child and passed down to the next generation. The community again is important factor for this cause as well. People adapt to where they are living. For example if a family moves to from a neighborhood that had more restaurants than fast food, and then the family moves to a neighborhood that has nothing but fast food and there is no other place to eat they may change their diet.

A behavioral example would be that a young child that does not want to eat their vegetables at lunch because they say they do not like them. Portion size is a very important factor for childhood obesity. If the portion size of an unhealthy food is too big then the child is more likely to become overweight. When a child is eating fast food or processed food or if they are drinking soda and juice, then they are consuming more sugar and calories than someone that may be eating vegetables or fruit. When a child intakes more calories or sugar, then does not exercise then the child is not burning off the extra intake off. Some children also play a lot of video games and a child may watch a lot of TV, instead of playing outside.

A biological example is if someone has a medical condition where it makes their metabolism not work the best and it causes them to have trouble losing weight or they just gain weight easily. Every person has a different metabolism level as well. Some people may have an over active metabolism and then there are others that have a metabolism that is very slow. Metabolism is how fast the body burns off calories or energy that the body takes in. Another factor is genes or heredity. Genes or heredity is something that you get from your parents of other people in your family. This gets passed down from generation to generation and there is nothing that can be about it, except trying to offset it buy changing diet or level of physical activity.

An environmental example would be looking at the ease of accessing processed or fast food near a child's home. The food that a parent fixes their child is an important factor. This is important due to the fact if the parent is fixing processed or just bringing fast food home then the child will be in taking more calories per meal which could affect the child's weight in a negative way. The foods that a school offers are also a factor. A school that offers healthier choices may help the student choose the healthier food. When a child chooses a healthier food then they are more likely to continue their diet as an adult but this will also help the child's weight then too. The state that a child lives in could also be a factor. Each state has their own specialty that almost everyone fixes. If the child is living somewhere, where foods are fired then they are in taking more fat and calories.

There are so many health concerns that come with childhood obesity. Some of the health concerns are type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, lower life expectancy, stress, depression, and low self-esteem. According to the Center of Disease Control (2010) children that suffer from childhood obesity are more likely to get the above health problems when they get older to have these diseases as adults. If some kids are left to manage their own health then they will be unhealthy as an adult because their lifestyle will not change. This is a very important health concern for our children because they are the future leaders of this country and this is causing them to die earlier than their life expectancy.

Cardiovascular disease is one disease that is affecting children with childhood obesity. Cardiovascular disease is relating to or involving the heart and blood vessel in the body(Merriam-Webster, 2011). According to the Center of Disease Control, 70% of children that are obese have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. One contributing factor is cholesterol to the above statistic. Kids are eat more and more fast food in this generation which is increasing their weight and cholesterol levels. Children are also not exercising or doing cardiovascular exercises like: swimming and running. This disease can also lead to many other health problems in adulthood.

Another health concern for children that are obese is high blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy level is important because high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure is known as hypertension. Hypertension is abnormally high arterial blood pressure (Merriam-Webster, 2011). According to Rob Stein (2007) “increases so far have been small -- just 2.3 percentage points for early hypertension and 1 point for full-blown hypertension -- they translate into hundreds of thousands more children developing what often becomes a chronic, lifelong condition”. High blood pressure can lead to other health concerns such as: heart disease, stroke and kidney troubles.

The next major health issue that can come from a child being obese is type 2 diabetes. According to the University of Michigan Health System it could take up to 10 years before an obese child shows the development of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is when the body can not process the insulin in the body produces. There are many things that can contribute to a child having type 2 diabetes. The level of exercise can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes because when you exercise it helps the body burn the energy that is consumed. There are some complications for health when you have diabetes, those complications are blindness and amputations of the arms and/or legs.

Stress can also have an effect on a child's health. Stress can cause many health issues because it takes energy to be stressed and many people worry when they are stressed. According to Merriam-Webster (2011), stress is a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Stress can come from home, school, friends, and family. When someone is stressed they may eat for comfort and this can cause extra calories being taken in and not burned off. Stress can be linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and many more.

Low self-esteem is another important factor for children. Low self-esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself. Low self-esteem can be from children bullying, making fun of each other, and stress. When a child has trouble making friends they may form a low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can cause an eating disorder. According to Susan Okie (2005, p 73), obesity is a risk factor for the development of an eating disorder. A child overweight could have a poor self-image and that could lead to an eating disorder.

There is also a lower life expectancy with children that are obese. Life expectancy is referring to the age that a person lives to base on sex, ethnicity, and other factors. There are many factors that contribute to this. One factor is suicide. Children that have a low self-image or ones that have given up could resort to suicide. Another factor is the health issues that the obese child has. As the child gets older and if they already have heart disease, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes are likely to have the complications with those diseases earlier in their adult life.

One way that Americans are trying to prevent childhood obesity is having schools offer more gym class time. Another way that Americans are trying to incorporate exercise is that the TV network Nickelodeon has a day that they turn off the cartoons and encourage children and their parents to go outside and play, they call it the national day of play. There are many health programs also ran by the government trying to help low income families with providing their children with a balanced diet.

The biggest thing that a parent can do is change their own lifestyle and pass it to the child. A parent leads by example showing their children how to live, act, and what to believe. A parent can start a daily activity with the family included and make this routine for the family. The parent can also change the food bought at the store and what is fixed at home. A child can be given a much smaller portion size and then if they are still hungry they could ask for more and the parent would determine the portion size of the extra the child would get.

School are not out of the woods on this subject matter either. Schools offer processed food which are higher in calories, fat, and maybe sugar. Schools need to change their menu to offer healthier lifestyle choices. Schools would also help prevent childhood obesity by increasing the amount of time the student gets physical exercise during the school day. Another item the school should change to help prevent childhood obesity is the portion size of food their offering to a child.

A community could ban together to prevent childhood obesity as well. The community could offer to have a campaign. These campaigns would be able to use multiple strategies,such as: media campaigns , community mobilizations, education programs for health professionals and the general public, modifications of physical environments, and health screenings and referrals (Koplan, Liverman, Kraak, 2005, pg 196). The community could also build a bike or walking trail in a park. Having the bike or walking trail will encourage the citizens of the community to get out and exercise. The community could also build a community center that has exercise equipment or a program ran thru the building to help teach parents to eat right. When the parents know what to do to help then they can pass the information down to the children.

There are also many government ran programs to help low income families. One good example is the WIC program which stands for Women, Infant, and Children. This program helps low income people that are pregnant or they have children under the age of five and they also have to meet the income guidelines for the size of the household. Income guidelines vary depending on what state in which the family resides in. WIC only offers certain foods to families. They offer formula for a baby, but the formula has to be on a state approved list (USDA, 2011). If there is a pregnant woman in the household, WIC then offers the household milk, whole grain bread, peanut butter or dry beans, fruit, approved cereal, and 100% fruit juice(USDA, 2011). If the woman is breastfeeding the baby then she is offered tuna and carrots for the nutritional value those foods give (USDA, 2011).

Another government program is Food Stamps which help low income families buy food. There are income guidelines that someone would have to meet before getting assistance with this program. There is not much of a requirement of what food to buy on this program but they do have items that you are not allowed to buy. The recipient cannot buy taxable items such as diapers, paper towels, or toilet paper. The recipient cannot buy alcohol either. When a person on food stamps goes to a store to buy groceries the register will notify the cashier what is food stamp eligible and what is not. Anything that is not eligible the consumer must pay for. Without these programs the United States could have lots of hungry people that could starve to death.

Research is stating that childhood obesity is preventable when proper diet and exercise are incorporated into a child’s life from a young age. If a child does not eat healthy foods and does not exercise then that child is more likely to be obese. When a child is obese, then the child is at risk for some serious medical diseases that may not show up until they are an adult. If a child has a serious medical disease young then they more likely to have a more severe condition like cardiovascular disease when they are an adult. There are many government and community programs to help the low income families that are in need of assistance. Preventing childhood obesity is a concern for parents, schools, communities, and government to solve together with all of the programs available.

Center of Disease Control. (2010, June 3). Childhood Obesity. In Health Topics (par. 2) [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from Epidemic. (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from Institute of Medicine (U. S.) Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. (2005). Confronting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic. In V. A. Kraak, J. P. Koplan, & C. T. LIverman (Eds.), Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. (p. 196). Retrieved from Institute of Medicine (U. S.) Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. (2005). Confronting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic. In V. A. Kraak, J. P. Koplan, & C. T. LIverman (Eds.), Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. (p. 216). Retrieved from

Institute of Medicine (U. S.) Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. (2005). Confronting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic. In V. A. Kraak, J. P. Koplan, & C. T. LIverman (Eds.), Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. (p. 340). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Ed.). (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Ed.). (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Ed.). (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Ed.). (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Ed.). (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Ed.). (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from Okie, S. (2005). Size, Health, and Self Esteem. In Fed Up! Winning the War Against Childhood Obesity (pp. p 73). Retrieved from

Stein, R. (2007, September 17). More Kids Developing High Blood Pressure. The Washingtion Post, par 3. Retrieved from:

University of Michigan Health System (2008, July 12). Coming Epidemic Of Type 2 Diabetes In Young Adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from

USDA. (2011). Women Infants and Children [Brochure]. Retrieved from

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